Confessions of a Form-Hating Marketer
February 7, 2018
I’m a marketer at a B2B technology company and I hate forms. There, I said it.
I hate running into them when I’m researching a topic for something I’m writing. Typically, I’ll bypass the form by popping the report title into Google’s advanced search and accessing the PDF directly. It works most of the time. If it wasn’t literally my job to find this information, I wouldn’t bother. I’d just move on.
I hate being interrupted by a pop-up as soon as I land on certain blogs or industry publications. I roll my eyes every time I click on a button with incredibly insulting copy; something along the lines of, “No, I don’t want to learn how to do that one thing that will make my business ridiculously successful because I’m a huge idiot.”
I hate that many of my fellow marketers still believe forms represent a value exchange between their company and its potential customers. In exchange for this “high value” piece of content (must be high value because it’s long and a PDF, right?), they must give you their name, email address, phone number, job title, company name, industry, and revenue. This entitled way of thinking is a trap. It doesn’t help your business and it certainly doesn’t help your customers.
I hate when I do take the time to fill out a form and then I end up at some horrible dead end — either the PDF itself or, even worse, a confirmation page that tells me to check my email for a link to the content. 1) That is a horrible experience and 2) what a wasted opportunity.
Most of all, I hate that companies say they care about the customer experience and want to improve people’s lives through their content and eventually their product/service. In reality, all they really care about is gating that content so they can dump as many mediocre leads into the top of the funnel as possible. Those leads are not “hand raises”. They’re just forced form fills. They don’t mean anything. Not really.
I hate forms so much that I decided to organize The Great Gate Debate, broadcasting live next Thursday, February 15 at 1pm ET / 10am PT. I’ve asked people who are way smarter than me to argue their position in this debate, including:
- Tyler Lessard, VP of Marketing at Vidyard
- Owais Farooqui, Demand Gen at Oath
- Mimi Rosenheim, Director of Web Marketing at Demandbase
- Mark Bornstein, VP of Content Marketing on ON24
- Dave Gerhardt, Director of Marketing at Drift
- Host: Elle Woulfe, VP of Marketing at LookBookHQ
At first glance, the solution to The Great Gate Debate seems simple, doesn’t it? Get rid of all the forms between your content and the people who want to read it. Trust your potential customers to run their own buying processes and find the information they need to make a decision — without the nurture programs, and without the instantaneous sales calls and emails.
BUT WAIT! I can hear you yelling through the screen. I STILL NEED TO GENERATE LEADS SO MY SALES TEAM CAN TURN THEM INTO REVENUE. HOW DOES THAT WORK IF WE GET RID OF EVERY SINGLE FORM???
This is the question at the heart of The Great Gate Debate. It’s been asked on marketing teams around the world for years and it’s this question that continues to paralyze marketers from making meaningful changes to their form strategy today.
The reality is that it’s not as black and white as, “To gate or not to gate?” That is too simplistic and doesn’t take into account all the complexities involved in a form strategy. There are shades of grey, to be sure. It’s going to work a little bit differently at each organization depending on your technology stack, your lead-to-revenue process, and your team’s tolerance for change.
But we do need to change our ways. As marketers, our job is not to generate clicks and form fills. Clicks and form fills don’t generate revenue. Our job is to educate buyers and help them find the right information at the right time in their own unique buying process. Qualified, educated buyers generate revenue. And our buyers require this of us too. According to a 2017 Demand Gen Report Survey of Content Preferences, 71% of B2B buyers want content to be easier to access.
Having been on a few of these marketing teams I’ve been witness to a few of these debates over the last decade, I’ve found that it’s sometimes more helpful (and more comfortable for those carrying demand gen targets on their shoulders) to think of your form strategy as a spectrum rather than an on-off switch. Start somewhere rather than changing everything overnight.
Start by making your forms a bit smarter with progressive profiling. Then shorten them by taking advantage of all the great data appending services out there. Only show forms to unknown visitors. Then take it a bit farther and only show those super short forms to unknown visitors who spend a certain amount of time engaging with your content. I don’t know, maybe go a little crazy and make them dismissable? The possibilities are endless.
What do YOU think? Join the conversation and share your thoughts during The Great Gate Debate on Feb. 15. Save your spot here!